Laser angioplasty, or the ablation of atherosclerotic plaque using laser energy, has tremendous potential to expand the scope of nonsurgical treatment of obstructive vascular disease. Clinical laser angioplasty, however, has been hindered by an unacceptable risk of vessel perforation. Laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy can discriminate atherosclerotic from normal artery and may therefore be capable of guiding selective plaque ablation. To assess the feasibility of utilizing spectral information to discriminate arterial tissue type, several classification algorithms were developed and evaluated. Arterial fluorescence spectra from 350 to 700 nm were obtained from 100 human aortic specimens. Seven spectral classification algorithms were developed with the following techniques: multivariate linear regression, stepwise multivariate linear regression, principal components analysis, decision plane analysis, Bayes decision theory, principal peak ratio, and spectral width. The classification ability of each algorithm was evaluated by its application to the training set and to a validation set containing 82 additional spectra. All seven spectral classification algorithms prospectively classified atherosclerotic and normal aorta with an accuracy greater than 80 percent (range: 82-96 percent). Laser angioplasty systems incorporating spectral classification algorithms may therefore be capable of detection and selective ablation of atherosclerotic plaque.